Bail Fund is ACLU’s latest strategy to draw attention to and end debtors’ prisons
Today the ACLU of Nebraska launched a first-of-its-kind program in Lancaster County to address the practice of jailing low-income Nebraskans who are unable to afford money bail. Although they are presumed innocent and are still awaiting trial, and without a thorough individualized inquiry into their ability to pay, these Nebraskans are forced to sit in jail simply because they can’t afford bail.
The Lancaster County Bail Fund operates as a revolving fund that will post bail for individuals who are held pre-trial in the Lancaster County Jail. When individuals benefiting from the bail fund appear for trial, the money is returned to the fund and recycled to assist other Lincoln residents.
The money bond system criminalizes poverty and creates hardship for people's families, employment and housing. We are collecting stories of how being jailed pretrial disrupts people's lives and compounds financial difficulties. If you've been jailed for not affording bail, we want to hear from you.
The ACLU published Unequal Justice in 2016 which reviewed modern day debtors’ prison practices in Nebraska’s four largest counties: Douglas, Sarpy, Lancaster and Hall and illustrated troubling racial disparities. In 2017, Nebraska lawmakers passed debtors prison reform legislation, LB 259, with strong support across the political spectrum. The ACLU has monitored the implementation of this legislation through court watching and additional data research and has discovered these reform measures have not been implemented in daily practice.
The Lancaster County Bail Fund is modeled after similar successful programs across the county. For example, last year on Mother’s Day, Black Lives Matter helped raise more than $500,000 and bailed out mothers jailed in 20 cities across the country. Similar bail funds have been established in Brooklyn, Chicago, Nashville and Seattle.
Requests for assistance from incarcerated individuals, families, and community partners are welcomed by the Lancaster County Bail Fund at www.lancastercobailfund.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 613-7468.